I live in Dublin.
Something I hear friends and people that I work with on a regular basis say goes something along the lines of, ‘Yeaaaa, I’d love to see more of Ireland, but sure you’d need a looooad of time off to do any of that’.
If you’ve found yourself uttering the above, guess what, you’re wrong!
This guide is part of a series of road trip guides we’re creating for people living in Dublin that want to explore Ireland at the weekends without taking time off work.
For this guide, we’re off on a 3-day road trip out west. We’ll be squeezing the best things to do in County Galway into 3 adventure, food and pint-packed days!
Let’s get cracking!
The night before you leave
Check the weather for Galway on yr.no and see what the following 2 days are going to be like.
Yr.no is generally pretty damn accurate, so this should help you determine the type of clothing you’ll need to bring.
Get your bag packed with everything you need for the weekend – clothes, hiking boots, runners with decent grip, rain gear, etc.
Friday: Day/Night #1 – Drive, food and pints in the city
Yeooooow! D-day has arrived and you’ve packed your bags the night before and the car is sitting on a full tank.
You’re ready to rock.
To make the most of the weekend, you need to make your way to Galway on the Friday evening after work, which isn’t too bad as it’s a handy 2 and a half hour drive.
When to leave
Get on the road out of Dublin at 18:00 and you’ll be in Galway City for 20:30.
Where to stay in Galway
This will depend on your budget.
Regardless of whether you’re looking to do it on the cheap or if you’re happy to spend a few quid, you’ll find the best places to stay in Galway on this interactive map.
Get checked into your hotel as soon as you arrive and head out for food for 21:15.
Where to eat
If you’re a pizza fan, Dough Bros is going to make your mouth happy.
The food is reasonably priced, the quality is top-notch and there’s a fine selection of beer to wash it all down with.
Where to drink
Now for the fun part.
Galway is home to many a pub. We’ve created this guide to 9 of the best pubs in the city to help you pick which ones you venture to.
Personally, I like Tigh Neachtain, the Front Door and O’Connell’s, but even while I type this I realise that there’s several more that I thoroughly enjoy nursing a pint in.
Take your time and work your way around the city.
Bed by 01:00
You’ve a long ass day of driving ahead of you, so hit the nest early so you’re nice and rested.
Saturday: Day #2 – Alarm set for 9:00
Get up early and grab a bit of breakfast.
You want to be out of the hotel by 09:30 and on the road for 10:30
I ate in McCambridge’s Of Galway (on shop street) recently and the breakfast (and coffee) was savage.
Get in, get fed and get on the road for half ten.
Day #2 Stop #1 – The Quiet Man Bridge
Galway city to the Quiet Man Bridge – 44-minute drive (arrive at 11:15)
This one is for everyone that’s watched the movie “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
The Bridge is located around 5 miles past Oughterard, on the N59 heading west.
Even if you haven’t seen the movie, this is a real piece of what I’d call ‘old world Ireland’ that’s worth checking out.
Day #2 Stop #2 – slow down and take it all in
The Quiet Man Bridge to Clifden – allow an hour with stops, but take longer if needed (arrive in Clifden at around 12:30)
Ok, so this isn’t really a stop.
After leaving the Quiet Man Bridge, you’ll be driving along the N59 road towards Clifden.
The mountainous, ever-changing landscape that you’ll pass over the course of this stretch of road is simply superb.
Drop the windows (hopefully the rain isn’t hopping down), dial up the radio and just cruise and take it all in.
We’re in no rush. Just soak up the magic of Connemara.
Day #2 Stop #3 – The Skyroad, Clifden
Clifden village to the Skyroad viewing point – 11-minute drive (arrive at the viewing point for 13:10 – allow plenty of time to stop… it’s amazing)
One of the best things to do in County Galway (in my opinion) is to grab a cup of coffee to go from one of the cafes in Clifden and drive along the Sky Road at your leisure.
On a cool winters morning, there’s just nothing like it in the world.
The Sky Road is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Connemara region. It’s a circular route around 11km long that takes you out west from Clifden.
The scenery you’ll be treated to as you spin along the Sky Road will etch itself upon your mind.
There are few places in Ireland that can go toe-to-toe with the raw beauty and vast range of scenery that those who drive along the Sky Road experience.
As you travel away from Clifden, the Sky Road splits into a lower and an upper road. The lower road will give you a close-up gander of the landscape, while the upper offers views out over the entire area.
You can park your car at the highest point of the road and step out and soak of the glorious scene that lays in front of you.
Day #2 Stop #4 – Diamond Hill
Skyroad viewing point to Diamond Hill – 30-minute drive (arrive for 14:30)
Our fourth stop of the day offers the perfect opportunity to escape the car and stretch your legs.
Something I’ve heard said on many occasions is that to truly appreciate the beauty of Connemara, you need to see it from above – enter Diamond Hill.
Hit play and check out the view 😮
There are two walks to choose from;
The Lower Diamond Hill walk
This trail measures around 3 km and has modest climbs along the route.
You’ll enjoy fantastic views of the surrounding Connemara countryside, coastline and islands over the course of the 1 – 1 and a half hours that it takes to complete.
The Upper Diamond Hill trail
This is a continuation of the Lower Diamond Hill walk which takes you up to the summit of Diamond Hill. For those that fancy giving this a shot, the entire circuit of the Lower and Upper trails measures around 7km and should take between 2.5 – 3 hours.
According to my Dad who has done this walk several times over the past few years, climbing to the top of Diamond Hill is one of the best things to do in County Galway for anyone in search of scenery that will literally knock the breath out of you.
At the summit, you’ll be treated to panoramic views across all of Connemara. Expect to see the Twelve Bens mountain range, Tully Mountain and Mweelrea to the North.
Day #2 Stop #5 Spin around Connemara National Park
Allow yourself 1.5 to 3 hours (depending on which route you take along with fitness level) to climb Diamond Hill. That’ll take you up to evening time on #Day2.
One of my favourite parts of any road trip is wandering.
It involves, quite literally, just setting off and driving wherever your gut and the scenery that surrounds you takes you.
Connemara is a pretty safe place to do this.
You tend to end up surrounded by an almost other-worldly mountainous landscape regardless of which way you point the car.
Allow yourself an hour and a half to drive around and take everything in.
One of the best things to do in County Galway (and Ireland in general) when you’re driving about the place is taking those random little roads that lead to God knows where – it’s on these little whims that you end up (sometimes…) at the hidden gems you never even knew existed.
Connemara is a great place to get lost.
When you’ve finished exploring, head to Clifden village.
Day #2 Stop #6 – Clifden for the evening
Your base for the second night is the bustling little town of Clifden.
Here’s everything you need to know 😘
Where to stay in Clifden
OK, first things first – let’s grab a bed for the night.
Like the first night, where you stay is going to be based on the budget that you’re working with.
For this trip, I’m going to recommend Foyles Hotel as it’s extremely central, the reviews are exceptional and a bed for the night and a full Irish in the morning will set you back around €99.
Where to eat
For a bite to eat, nip into Guys Bar & Snug for fish and chips (or whatever you fancy, obviously).
It’s a short stroll from your hotel and the reviews speak for themselves.
Where to drink
We’re heading to Lowry’s Bar for drinks and live music.
At this stage, you’ll have driven and walked a fair amount, so you should be wrecked.
Kick-back, listen to the music and soak up some chill time.
Day #3 – An Abbey, a Fjord and one of the best drives in Ireland
Treat yourself to a bit of a lie-in on #Day3.
Set the alarm for 10 and get up and get a bit of food and coffee into you.
We’ve another cracking day ahead so look to get on the road by 11.
Day #3 Stop #1 – Kylemore Abbey
Clifden to Kylemore Abbey – 22-minute drive (arrive for 11:25)
Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine monastery that was founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara.
The whole place looks like something plucked straight from a fairytale.
Quand on parle de mystère… On ne pouvait pas venir au Connemara sans découvrir Kylemore Abbey. Au delà d’être un symbole de la région, difficile de ne pas tomber sous le charme de cette vue, vous ne trouvez pas ? 😉 . . . #ireland #irish #connemara #kylemoreabbey #galway #discoverearth #roamtheplanet #castle #naturephotography #frenchtraveler #voyage #traveladdict #roadtrip #europetrip #beautifulplace #naturelovers #wanderlust #ontheroad #travelphotography #earthpix #tlpicks
When I visited here last, I literally just walked along the edge of the lake and took it all in from afar.
You can do the tour if you like, but the view from the other side of the water is amazing.
Day #3 Stop #2 – Leenaun
Kylemore Abbey to Leenaun – 20-minute drive (spend 40 minutes – longer if you do the tour – at Kylemore Abbey and get to Leenaun for 12:30)
Leenaun is hands-down one of my favourite little (and I mean ‘little’) villages in Ireland.
It’s small, has a buzzy atmosphere from all of the tourists and locals milling about the place and the views out over the Killary Fjord are nothing short of sensational.
Any time I’m here I nip into the little café that’s attached to the gift shop right across from the big parking area (you literally can’t miss it).
I can vouch for the vegetable soup and coffee both being class.
It’s not long since you’ve eaten, but if you’re feeling a little tender after a few drinks the night before, grab a coffee by the window and soak up the view.
For those of you that have watched ‘The Field’, you may recognise Gaynors pub in Leenaun as the pub that featured so frequently in the movie.
Day #3 Stop #3 – Aasleagh Falls
Leenaun village to Aasleagh Falls – 5-minute drive (spend 30 minutes in Leenaun – more if you’re eating – and aim to get here for around 13:15)
There are few sounds that rival the soft ‘plops’ that emit from a waterfall the size of Aasleagh Falls.
You’ll find the waterfall a stone’s throw from Leenane village on the River Erriff, just before the river meets Killary Harbour.
You can park the car at a lay-by close to the falls and there’s a pathway that allows visitors to make the short stroll to the waterfall.
Stretch the legs and gulp down lungfuls of fresh air.
Day #3 Stop #4 – The Leenaun to Louisburgh Drive
Aasleagh Falls to Louisburgh (Co. Mayo) – 40-minute drive but allow 1.5 hours minimum (you’ll have spent 20 minutes at Aasleagh Falls, so you should arrive in Louisburgh for around 15:10)
OK, so this isn’t necessarily a stop, but you’ll be stopping plenty of times over the course of the drive.
This drive deserves a road trip guide dedicated to it as it’s one of those stretches of road that just completely shocks the system.
I’ve driven this route many times and on every occasion I’ve been taken aback by the sheer lack of people driving along it.
The scenery varies from icy lakes to rugged mountains to open country.
As you make your way along the road, you’ll pass Doo Lough, a long dark freshwater lake on the Murrisk peninsula.
Keep an eye out for a plain stone cross – it stands as a memorial to the Doolough Tragedy which took place in 1849.
The only advice I can give you during this drive is to take your time and stop and stretch your legs as often as possible.
Day #3 Stop #5 – Westport for dinner
Louisburgh to Westport – 26-minute drive (arrive around 15:50)
I’m going to recommend you head to J.J O’Malleys Bar & Restaurant for a bite to eat but here’s a map of all of the best places to eat in the area – just zoom in on Westport.
Fuel up and have a ramble around the town before heading back to the car.
And that’s a wrap – home time
You’re around 3 hours and 10 minutes from home.
Factoring in a stop for coffee/the toilet and you should reach Dublin for around 20:30.
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